Walt Disney is gearing up for a lavish coronation for a princess that few people have seen or heard.
When Elena of Avalor surfaces on Disney Channel at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 22, in a one-hour special of the same name, viewers will have to decide if they want to follow her adventures. The animated teenage character, they will learn, has saved her kingdom from an evil sorceress, but must learn to rule as crown princess until she is old enough to be queen.
Disney is pulling out all the promotional stops to make sure its fans will want to follow her journey. Princess Elena characters will traipse through Walt Disney World Resort this summer and Disneyland Resort in the fall. Disney Publishing has produced print and e-book titles based on the character and her story. And licensees including Habro, Jakks Pacific, Franco Manufacturing and Children’s Apparel Network have readied dolls, role-play products, accessories, home décor and apparel that will be available later this month at Disney Stores and then at mass retailers later in the summer. What’s more, Walt Disney Records will release “My Time,” an anthem from the first show, as a digital single on iTunes Friday, June 24, followed by a six-track EP featuring songs from the series on Friday, July 22.
Disneyphiles know all about Mulan, an Asian warrior, and Tiana, an African-American entrepreneur. They are even familiar with Ariel, the former mermaid. But they have never had a Latina character among the company’s roster of “Princess” characters, which also includes Aurora, Cinderella and Snow White. When Elena arrives, the company will have a character that could cultivate broader appeal among a consumer niche that is growing rapidly in the United States. Disney Channel will in the fall air a special TV movie titled “Elena and the Secret of Avalor,” which explains how Elena was imprisoned for decades in a magical amulet and eventually set free by Princess Sofia of Enchancia – the title character of Disney’s popular “Sofia The First” series.
“Elena” stories are expected to incorporate influences from Latin and Hispanic cultures through architecture, traditions, food and customs. Magic, mythology, folklore and music also play an important role, with each episode featuring original songs spanning an array of Latin musical styles including mariachi, Latin pop, salsa, banda and Chilean hip hop. The show’s theme song is performed by Gaby Moreno, a Latin Grammy Award winner for Best New Artist, and Elena’s anthem, “My Time,” is performed by Aimee Carrero, who will also give voice to the main character.
“Elena of Avalor” was created by Craig Gerber, who also launched “Sofia The First” and will serve as executive producer. Silvia Cardenas Olivas is the story editor, and Elliot M. Bour is the supervising director. The series’ cultural advisers are Marcela Davison Avilés, founder of The Chapultepec Group, co-founder of the international Latino arts initiative Camino Arts, and Director of Humanities Programs at the FDR Foundation at Harvard University; and Diane Rodriguez, Associate Artistic Director of Centre Theatre Group and co-founder of the theater ensemble Latins Anonymous, who was recently appointed by President Obama to be a member of the National Council on the Arts.
In addition to Carrero as Elena. the series features Jenna Ortega as Princess Isabel; Chris Parnell, Yvette Nicole Brown and Carlos Alazraqui as Migs, Luna and Skylar; Emiliano Díez as Francisco; Julia Vera as Luisa; Christian Lanz as Chancellor Esteban; Jillian Rose Reed as Naomi; Joseph Haro as Mateo; Jorge Diaz as Gabe; Keith Ferguson as Zuzo; and Joe Nunez as Armando.